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Posts Tagged ‘Golovin Alaska’

To start reading from the beginning, go to May 11, 2008.

Jimmy was back at the store pacing around with his over-sized parky and toothless grin. He was in his early twenties andwhether to decay or a fight he was missing his two front teeth. The missing teeth or the last several weeks of incarceration had no affect
on his positive personality. He was telling me about a movie playing in White Mountain that night at the community center.

Last summer someone had ordered in a movie for the village of Golovin. Several villagers crammed into school chairs and benches in the school house to watch THE WAY WE WERE with Robert Redford (one of my favorites) and Barbara Streisand. I had kids sitting on my lap, hugging me, placing their cheek to mine. The following day Donny and I were leaving on our trip “outside” (Minnesota and Chicago). That movie night I contracted impetigo on my face from one of the kids. I spent the trip outside treating the highly contagious unsightly virus.

Jimmy invited me to join him and others to travel that night by snow machine 18 miles across the lagoon to White Mountain. The majority of my days in Golovin consisted of work, cleaning up after dinner and spending time alone in my room. A trip with a group of people, including Unsky and Gooksy, was appealing — not logical — but a way to break the monotony.

The trip would be in the dark: the sun half heartedly rose around 9:00 am and hovered above the horizon before leaving again late afternoon. The temperature would be around 0 degrees that night. I trusted the so-called group I’d be with as I figured a trip to White Mountain on
snow machine in the dark was like my high school friends and I driving from Ottawa, IL to Streator for a movie. No big deal if it’s familiar territory. If you’d been there all your life.

Three snow machines pulled up outside the house shortly after dinner. Maggie and Martin watched me leave without a word but, in hindsight, the must have
been concerned — more than concerned. I couldn’t tell who the figures were under helmet and bundled in snowsuits. They were mounted on black new sleek machines. Jimmy’s machine had to be twenty years old. Perhaps the prototype for the first machine to run on snow. One could see its dull yellow squared off body in the moonlight. The single headlight had a dull glow that Jimmy said wouldn’t stay on, but “That’s okay, we’ll follow the others.”

We were no sooner out of Golovin and on the ice when the others took off like a rocket. We puttered along convincing myself we would never get to White Mountain before the movie ended. I should have asked what movie we were perilously traveling so far to see. I doubt that Jimmy knew. Whenever we hit a bump the light went out. Another bump the light came back on until we either ran out of bumps or the light just stopped working. I finally told Jimmy we need to go back. I was surprised when persistent Jimmy complied.

Fortunately we had a full moon and clear skies. Unfortunately Jimmy had no idea which way was “back”. On the ice and snow a degree to the left or right of one’s destination could easily leave one still in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly, in the far distance, the other two machines were racing on a joy ride. They seemed to have no intention of going to the movie — nor making sure we were okay.

Jimmy pointed right indicating the direction we should go. Some time ago, M.O. had taken me on a machine out on the ice North of Golovin for the sole purpose of showing me, if I were ever lost, how to get home by the stars. Donny and Koke were more my friends than M.O. so it was unusual for him to show concern. Maybe he was under Martin’s orders. It was even more unusual to me to think I’d ever be out so far from Golovin by myself on the ice at night. And there
I was, north of Golovin with a lifetime villager and Eskimo who, to me should know how to get home. I should have known better than to trust Jimmy for anything.

As per M.O.’s instructions I found the twinkling star on Orion’s belt and told Jimmy we need to go that way. He again complied like a little boy and we were home within the hour. I quietly entered the house and up to my room where I removed my reindeer mukluks (mukluks courtesy of Maggie), down mittens, down parky with wolf ruff (ruff courtesy of Maggie), down cap, snow pants, long underwear and crawled into bed where I stared at the moon just outside my bedroom
window.

After I left Golovin and was living in Nome, I saw Jimmy a time or two. I later learned he was traveling one night on a snow machine, ran out of gas and froze to death.

(to be continued) copyright Tamara Ann Burgh, all rights reserved

Jimmy in Nome

Jimmy in Nome

winter buildings

The Old House and Shed in winter

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To start reading from the beginning, go to May 11, 2008.

Back in Golovin after a successful fall squirrel
trapping camp, we were back in the routine: me unpacking and shelving
canned goods, accepting sticky coins from kids buying candy and pop,
sweeping sand from the floors, delivering phone messages, fetching flour
and sugar from the old house, pumping gas into jerry jugs and working
on a needlepoint pillow behind the counter. The simple chores that did
not challenge my potential were enough for me at that time. The novelty
of living in my ancestral arctic village also numbed me to the mild
loneliness I felt; a loneliness that would become acute in the dark
winter months to come.

One day, while attending to a small group of kids on their daily
candy, pop and bubble gum run, one of the boys told me in a low muffled
tone while pointing to the girl next to him, “She makes love.” The girl
he was pointing to was a mere 10 years old. “What?” I asked hoping he
meant the innocence of k-i-s-s-i-n-g like the nursery rhyme. He
repeated, “She makes love.” The girl looked at me without expression.
She made no attempt to deny it. “With the older boys,” the boy added as
if to make sure I knew what he was saying. I looked to the girl again
and realized she was, with her silence, admitting to it, not only
admitting it, but seemed to be a willing partner if not the instigator.
10 years old and buying bubble gum with scrounged pocket change she
couldn’t add up. My delusional thoughts that I might be something of a
mentor to the kids in the village–visiting with them, joking with them,
teaching them from behind the counter–suddenly came to an abrupt end. I
was the naive one. As a college graduate with honors, I may not have
been living to my career potential, but I was certainly getting a
continuing education in village life on the arctic tundra.

It’s been 30 years since I sat behind the counter in Golovin. I
wonder what has become of that little girl and the other kids who have
their own kids buying candy from the store.

(to be continued) copyright Tamara Ann Burgh, all rights reserved

Golovin

Picture taken from "Welcome to Golovin" home page

Falll tundra, picture taken by the author

Fall tundra, picture taken by the author

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To start reading from the beginning, go to May 11, 2008.

After spending a night in Fairbanks, we left in the morning for our final leg of the week long trip. We flew
that day across Alaska back to Golovin. I was proud of the way I managed the trip (in a Cessna 170 — see June
27 entry
): calmly living through a near fatal crash into the Canadian Rockies, twice nearly running out of gas, a strange man
attempting to enter my bed, an impetigo attack of my face (which was nearly gone) and thwarting an abandonment
in Whitehorse by my pilot. We would soon be “home” again. I was looking
forward to finishing my boat project of fiberglass and paint. Despite
all the adventure and near misses I was arriving intact.

Flying above the Seward Peninsula, we could actually see the outline of Golovin Peninsula
when Donny spotted a Fox on the tundra. Without warning, he dropped the
plane several hundred feet and chased the fox. To what purpose? All of
my pride at having survived such an adventurous trip starting in the Fox
River, Joliet, IL with floats; to Duluth, MN; across the Dakotas into
Canada west over the Rockies then across the width of Alaska leaped from
my heart and remained hovering 300 feet above the tundra when Donny
dove towards the fox. Humiliation replace the void when my pride left
behind. I had recently eaten a tuna fish sandwich and it was now all
over my shirt. My iron stomached pilot nearly wretched from the smell.
Serves him right. He couldn’t exit the plane fast enough.

I arrived back to Golovin where all the kids, and some adults, I had known
and befriended met most planes that landed in their village. They
welcomed me back but not without commenting and snickering about the
regurgitated tuna fish down the front of my shirt. If they only knew
what I had just been through.

Donny unloaded my things from the plane including the pink suitcase. One of the boys whose waist
barely cleared the top of the suitcase tried to pick it up and carry it
to the house. “Now don’t you go stealing that suitcase, Tommy.” My
reason for purchasing the pink suitcase, “less likely to get lost or
stolen” for a European trip a couple years previous, was now further
cause for my humiliating return to my father’s birthplace and the
village I would call home far into the winter months.

(to be continued) copyright Tamara Ann Burgh, all rights reserved

Mail Plane in Golovin

Mail Plane in Golovin. Dan is in the orange jump suit and Donny the red shirt

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